Aspiring Sagittarius Part I
The Archer leaps into view each year between approximately November 23rd and December 23rd. The earliest known image of this sign was a stone carving in Babylon of a Centaur somewhere between 1600 and 1150 B.C. This mythic creature with the legs and lower body of a horse, and the torso, arms, shoulders, and head of a man has come to symbolize the complex nature of this sign. The classic figure of the Centaur, with bow and arrow aiming towards the sky, has come to signify the aspiration of natives of this sign to direct their wills toward something more far-reaching. This is a sign that is constantly in the process of moving beyond whatever the boundaries are.
Myths have evolved out of the mists of ancient times telling tales that often resonant with universal archetypes. The myths that apply to Sagittarius also bleed into some of the other signs and planets. The myth of Chiron is such a story. In both the Greek and Roman versions, Chiron was born of Saturn and Filia, who transformed herself into a horse in her futile effort to elude his Satyric advances. The resulting child was considered a freak, and abandoned by both parents, therefore Chiron raised himself. Yes, he was self-taught. It is interesting to contrast his early years with that of his half-brother, Zeus/Jupiter, who was also one of the sons of Saturn. Zeus/Jupiter is traditionally considered the ‘ruler’ of Sagittarius, and he was raised royally on milk and honey fit for a king.
Chiron looked like a regular Centaur, being half-horse, half-man. His inner character, however, bore little resemblance to the other Centaurs who were gang-like in their mentality and behavior. Chiron, through his long years of suffering and lonely survival had honed his wisdom through deep self-reflection, and he aspired towards something greater than mere survival of the fittest and giving in to his baser instincts for lust of flesh and blood-letting. Rather, he thoughtfully listened to his elemental instincts and gained knowledge of the mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms in order to be able to create medicines for healing and enlightenment. It is this aspect of the planetoid, Chiron, that is often associated with another mutable but earth sign, Virgo. Chiron’s skills, however, went beyond that of the medicine keeper. He also knew every aspect of the warrior/martial artist in keeping more with the fiery aspect of Sagittarius. He gained the reputation of a master and gradually all the ancient heroes came to him to learn both how to fight, and how to heal. He also had the gift of Sagittarian ‘sight’ and vision, and became known as a truly wise philosopher teacher. These powerful virtues elevated him beyond the human sphere, and like the arrow drawn from the bow, and aimed towards the stars, he retained his true Divine nature, for he was also an immortal God.
Zeus/Jupiter, his half-brother, is also an archetypal figure bearing some of the other qualities of Sagittarius. While Chiron drew strength from the Earth by having the lower body of an animal, and living in a cave, Zeus early on climbed the ladder to prestige and power by sheer cunning, trickery, and usurping his father Saturn’s rule through his own fearlessness and leadership abilities. He became the King of Mt. Olympus. He was jovial by nature and loved the chase of conquest, whether it was for a lover, or more power. Governing was not really his thing, but luck was constantly on his side. Having gained the position of the highest official in Olympian land, he won the right to roam and romp to his heart’s content, seemingly with no other god or goddess to challenge his authority save perhaps his embittered wife, Hera, who did more harm to his paramours than to him.
The often confusing, seemingly dualistic nature of Sagittarius is perhaps more fully fleshed out by studying these two mythic beings and seeing how they complemented each other.
In the final version of the Chiron myth, which is too long to fully tell in this article, Chiron, having been inadvertently poisoned by one of his own deadly arrows sent flying by one of his proteges, Hercules, willingly chose to die rather than suffer endlessly. He could save others, but he could not save himself. He asked the great Zeus to allow him to trade places with Prometheus, that great awakener who had stolen the fire from the gods to give to humanity, and thus was being punished eternally by having his liver (the part of the body ruled by Jupiter/Sagittarius) pecked out daily by an eagle. Zeus obliged and Chiron was mercifully sent quickly into Tartarus, that deep abode of primal unconsciousness and endless sleep.
The story now gets quite interesting for a mutation occurs between the two brothers. Zeus takes pity on Chiron. Yes, pity. Zeus comes from some deeper, compassionate part of himself and releases Chiron into the starry universe, free at last. So Chiron spirals out into the greater Universe, even higher than Mt. Olympus.
The arrow in flight represents the quest upwards and outwards. Goal-driven, yet thirsting for freedom, Sagittarius is like the old cowboy song, “Don’t Fence Me In”, seeking an unfettered life. This flying arrow also describes the sense of optimism and hopefulness as it arches towards discovery and adventure.
Qualities and Characteristics
Robert Hand, a Sagittarian himself, wrote something quite profound about this sign in his book Horoscope Symbols. He says that Sagittarius is the last, and most advanced of the three Fire signs, but it is the first of the final four Social Signs (which also include Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces). As a Fire sign it must learn to transcend the purely personal need for self-expression that Fire excels at, yet beause it must also encounter an ever larger social context and find a way of being in relationship with some greater social order, it is highly ambivalent. Why? Because all Fire signs value their personal freedom, thus Sagittarius has trouble adjusting to the restrictions of the larger social order, which it must learn to be a part of. The goal, as Mr. Hand states so clearly, is to seek a social role that allows maximum self-expression while doing something socially useful. Voila!
Traditionally, Sagittarius is considered a dualistic sign, and even Mr. Hand back in 1981 described two distinctly different types of Saittarians. I prefer to see this Mutable Fire sign as manifesting a continuum of qualities from the least conscious, and therefore most conditioned by the collective unconscious, to the highest levels of consciousness in those who bear its signature, including Sun signs, Ascendants, Stelliums in Sagittarius, prominent Jupiters, and heavily posited 9th houses. Even within one life the evidence of all aspects of this continuum can be seen, such as the life of Bhagwan Rajneesh whom I profile in Part II. Duality exists in all of us. It is how we handle these paradoxes in the course of our lives that really matters. We can take the high road, or the low in any given set of circumstances. We can stay awake and totally present, or blank out and run on automatic unconscious pilot. Sagittarius often is given the opportunity to make these very choices.
The spiral seems an apt energy wave to describe the mysterious journey of this sign and its natives. The spiral is symbolic of never quite repeating the same cycle twice, but ever ascending or descending as the circle is about to be completed. Some Sagittarians prefer to ascend, and others allow themselves to descend. I prefer not to judge which is better, right or wrong. Each soul has a path necessary for their own growth and enlightenment. Certainly Chiron descended for awhile into Tartarus before ascending into a realm beyond comprehension.
THE URGE TO ROAM
What seems to be an underlying theme in every Sagittarian is the urge to roam, and the accompanying desire to be free to do so. There are ways and means of doing this that are as unique as each individual born with this archetypal stamp. Some prefer to physically roam the globe through adventures and travel experiences. They may like the rough tramp through a jungle, or the arduous journey on camel-back across vast expanses of desert. Others may prefer travel aboard private jets to exotic places like Dubai, or to their exclusive secret haven in Belize, or other such third world countries. Many travel to soak up the history and culture of the great cities of the ‘civilized’ world, enjoying the museums and ancient sites of long-gone Jupiterean power such as the Acropolis in Greece, the Vatican in Rome. Still others travel for business and educational reasons which involve them in international trade or learning, or because they feel called to serve as emissaries or missionaries with the hopes of persuading far-off peoples to convert to their points of view. Recently, more and more travelers are taking ‘Sacred Journeys’ and visitng ancient sites valued as special for spiritual reasons. All these physical journeys are primarily designed to take the traveler beyond the normal and the ordinary of life. Sagittarius desires to constantly expand and go beyond. These are not routine journeys.
There are other ways to ‘travel’ that don’t necessarily involve physically moving the body to a far away place. The long road towards gaining a Higher Education is truly a Sagittarian journey. Again, the subject matter can be as variegated as the individuals undertaking the arduous path towards mastering their chosen skill or subject. Obtaining a credential, a certificate of mastery, a college or graduate degree, a scholarship such as a Fullbright; these all fit the bill as another way to shoot ones arrow towards a very specific goal. These journeys, however, often create another dilemma. To achieve the goal one must comply with strict standards and socially approved rules. It is only after the thesis is written, the oral examination or the bar examination is passed, that the aspirant is then free to be entitled an expert and finally able to pursue greater personal self-expression in his or her chosen field. There are exceptions, however. Steven Spielberg, who is also profiled in Part II, was a rather mediocre student in college. He didn’t even capitulate. His genius as a film-maker, however, was finally acknowledge with an ‘honorary degree’ once he achieved box after box-office hit, was acclaimed the world over, and had reached the equivalent of Mt. Olympus in the world of filmdom. We see in him a nice blend of the self-taught Chiron, and the celebrated Zeus.
The roster of teachers, educators, writers, philosophers, publishers, and even political leaders is quite impressive in this sign. Here is just a brief list of many of these world-renowned individuals: Winston Churchill, Charles DeGalle, Franco, William Randolph Hearst, Robert Kennedy Jr., Gustave Flaubert, Emily Dickensen, A. Solzhenitsyn, Arthur Clarke, Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain, Ranier Maria Rilke, Joseph Conrad. Equally impressive are the number of famous entertainers, muscians, and artists in this sign.
SEARCHING FOR MEANING
The desire to extract meaning and principles from the plethora of data and information compiled first through the opposite sign of Gemini, is also a Sagittarian theme. Sagittarius often explores history to extrapolate themes and precendents, which then are applied into rules of conduct and law. Philosophical traditions, which often take the form of religions dictate codes of ethical and moral standards by which to judge and rule the greater collective of humanity. Religion is accepted globally as the basis for public morality, and therefore of the law, even though in the United States much effort is made to keep religion and the state separate. In Sagittarius there is a certain paradox here, for these laws are often created with the intention of protecting individual freedom from the mayhem of unbridled and unsanctioned instinctual behavior, but often end up curtailing or inhibiting freedom of personal creative expression as well as innovation. Sagittarius is not known for its love of experimentation or the right to rebel. We must await Aquarius for that theme to evolve the collective cycle. The Earth sign Capricorn follows the aspirations and visions of this Fire sign with the will and way to apply the laws and principles into stable and institutionalized forms of government. The relatedness principle is encompassing larger and larger bodies of people by now. The small individual is secondary to the greater Whole.
The qualities of this sign are dry, hot, mutable, and masculine. This is an extroverted sign ruled by Jupiter. Like all Fire signs the sense of vision and intuition is strong and Sagittarians are able to see far distant possibilities and move towards them with great confidence and enthusiasm. On the other hand, Sagittarius is vulnerable to depression when the sense of future hopes and dreams is crushed or severely thwarted by the coldness of anything Saturnine. Hitting a brick wall (Earth) is not fun! If you think about it, the Sagittarian time of year in the Northern Hemisphere is actually when the coming darkness is the strongest. This is also the nightforce, the power of the collective that is increasing and will reach its zenith at the Winter Solstice and the entrance of Capricorn. This must be balanced by the belief that light nd spring will return with new possibilities.
For Native Americans this was a time for telling stories around the fires of their dwellings, and of reflecting philosophically on life, often with great humor. The modern Sagittarian can be attracted to all areas of study which broaden their knowledge of the world, but unlike their Gemini opposite, they often seek a way to relate each part to every other in order to reveal the interconnectedness of all the parts, and thus some ultimate meaning. It is Truth that they are after. Truth demands something more reflective than mere categorization of facts. Truth also demands more than getting lost in abstract, theoretical concepts.
To what degree can the Sagittarian bypass the hard work of introspection that Truth demands? These can be huge social issues. The dark side of Sagittarius is collective projection where dogma and bigotry hold sway and others are blamed as sinners, infidels, and enemies or ‘terrorists’. Franco was a Sagittarian. Spain suffered terribly under his long dictatorship. We have just passed through 15+ years of Pluto in Sagittarius and seen the polarization of ideologies and beliefs fracture and, once again, threaten the sanity of our world.
The spiralic nature of this sign means that Truth and Wisdom are more likely to prevail when patient self-reflection is pursued through a long process of introspection tempered with compassion as the aspirant continues to spiral into various outer explorations and manifestations. There is a wonderful image of Kwan Yin, Goddess of Wisdom and Compassion, riding upon the clouds wielding her bow and arrow to make war on Evil, NOT the evil doer. Zeus/Jupiter in his highest manifestation meant the search for honesty, sincerity, integrity, and sane judgment. Zeus represented something so exalted to the ancients that no artist could possibly represent what was all-seeing and everywhere a presence.
Sagittarius is a sign that never seems to completely ‘land’. It is always in the process of becoming. Ranier Maria Rilke, the great German Sagittarian poet, lived an almost vagrant and wandering life. He was always becoming, becoming, becoming. This was the main theme of his beautiful poetry. To get a feeling for the Sagittarian spirit read him, especially his later works, Sonnets to Orpheus and The Duino Elegies.
It’s difficult to stop talking or writing about this sign! I’ll discuss Sagittarias in relationship and profile a few well-known natives in Part II.